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News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz. (2011) The mysterious 2005 disappearance of Ray Gricar, a district attorney in Pennsylvania. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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Ray Gricar 27, Jerry Sandusky 10, Sandusky 10, Pennsylvania 10, Gricar 8, Ray 7, Bellefonte 7, Patty 6, America 5, Penn 4, Tony Gricar 4, Ohio 3, Darrel Zagoni 3, Bob Buner 3, Wecht 3, Cleveland 2, Geico 2, Lewisburg 2, Subaru 2, Texas 2,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Chris Hansen, Hoda Kotb, Josh Mankiewicz.   
   (2011) The mysterious 2005 disappearance of Ray Gricar, a...  

    December 16, 2011
    10:00 - 11:00pm PST  

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happened. my gut said it was bad. >> he said, i'm on 192. i won't be able to come. it's truly like he did vanish into thin air. >> very confusing. d.a.s don't go missing. >> reporter: this one did six years ago and he hasn't been seen since. >> everyone who's ever looked at the case has their own theory. >> reporter: was he murdered? was it suicide? did he just walk away? >> whatever happened here is well planned out. >> by somebody. >> by somebody.
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>> reporter: he was the first d.a. to investigate are coach jerry sandusky. could there be a link between that case and his disappearance? where is this man? >> somebody knows something or aloft somebodies do. >> reporter: the case of the missing d.a. thanks for joining us. i'm lester holt in bellefonte, pennsylvania, a tiny town just a few short miles from the penn state campus. it was here in the courthouse behind me that the accusation that coach jerry sandusky sexually abused a child first came to the attention of the local district attorney. that was more than a decade ago, long before it became front page news. a few years later, that local d.a. mysteriously disappeared, a strange turn of events left people asking, is it possible there's a connection? >> reporter: the clues are tantalizing. a sporty red car. a speck of cigarette ash.
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a battered hard drive. >> it is a mystery. it absolutely is a mystery. >> reporter: but what do these clues say about the sudden disappearance of a district attorney who left them behind? >> it's baffling. it's confusing. and perplexing. it's all of those things. >> reporter: his name is ray grekar. when he vanished in 2005, it was a big story. >> prosecutor in pennsylvania who vanished on friday is still missing. >> reporter: now ray's story is linked to an even bigger one. >> stunning allegations of sexual child abuse. >> one of the most storied names in college sports is enveloped in scandal. >> reporter: because seven years before he went missing, ray gricar decided not to prosecute jerry sandusky for the first known allegation of child sex abuse against him. now some are asking whether are that sandusky case had anything to do with the d.a.'s disappearance. >> for anyone to think that
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there is no relationship is the epitome of naivety. >> reporter: others say no way. >> eliminating ray doesn't eliminate the problem for anybody. >> reporter: ever since the sandusky scandal broke, "dateline" has been on the ground an liegz the clues, digging into the case and talking to those who knew the d.a. from centre county. there are several scenarios for gricar's diss appearance. tonight we'll look for answers, what really happened to ray gricar. >> ray, i love you very much and i miss you. >> reporter: he was the district attorney in pennsylvania's centre county working in the postcard pretty town of bellefonte, penn state just down the road, a powerful presence in this central pennsylvania neighborhood. back in april 2005, ray gricar had served the better part of five terms and racked up a stellar reputation. >> but it's the nature of the
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job that, you know, you do difficult things, you make difficult choices. >> he was the most serious prosecutor i've ever met. >> reporter: bob buner was ray's friend. he's the d.a. in neighboring monitor county. he met ray gricar almost two decades ago and over the years the two traded shop talk whenever they could. did he go with his gut, shoot from the hip, or was he punch all the right buttons and then get to the right answer? >> he was the guy who always had the next question. what about this? did you consider that? p he was the most serious guy, ethical guy. >> reporter: methodical, meticulous, fearless, too. >> he didn't care who the person was he prosecuted. he prosecuted some very high-profile cases that made national news in little centre county in the middle of pennsylvania. it didn't bother him who the person was. it was what they did that counted. >> reporter: in the spring of 2005, everything seemed to be going ray gricar's way. he was in love after two
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divorces he had moved in with his longtime girlfriend patty, and he seemed happy at last. >> i think for both of us we finally found our soul mate. we found the person who was perfect. >> reporter: investigators say he had no health problems, no money worries, and he was close to his only child, 27-year-old laura. she lived in washington state at the time, but the two stayed in touch by phone. >> i spoke to my dad often. i would say three to four times a week we were in pretty regular are contact. >> reporter: in that spring of 2005, ray was 59, just eight months away from are rereare tirement. and he was ready for it. he was already starting to cut back on his workload. >> we were going to drive across the country, take our time, visit are the national parks and end up on the west coast visiting his daughter.
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>> reporter: are the tripthe trip never happened. on april 14th, laura had a conversation with her father that she'll never forget. >> the conversation was, hey, dad, i just called to say hi and i love you. i have this exam. he said, i love you, too. he said, i'm sure you're going to do great on the exam. you always do. you're just like your are mom. >> reporter: the next day, april 15th, ray woke up and told patty he was going to play hooky. she wasn't surprised. he had done it before. >> i said, time to get up. and he said, i don't think i'm going to go to work today. i think i'm going to take today o. i said, fine, good for you. >> reporter: patty went to work. she was a clerk in ray's office. ray called about 11:30 that morning. he told her he had taken his fun little mini for a spin on the country roads near their home. he often did that. he loved to go for long drives. so she thought nothing of it. >> and he said, you know, i'm driving down 192 and i won't be able to come home. i said, fine, no problem. he said, i love you.
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and i said, i love you, too. and we terminated the phone call. >> reporter: it was their last conversation. when patty got home from work that night, there was no sign of ray. she went to the gym. when she got back, he still wasn't home. she called his cell phone. the calls went straight to voice mail. for three hours she dialed and redialed the number. nothing but voice mail. finally, frantic, she called 911. >> to me, it was an emergency. it this is not like him. it's unusual behavior, you know. they know who i am. they know who ray is. so when i called to report ray is not home, this is not like him, it's unusual behavior, they quickly responded. >> reporter: ray gricar was gone. gone without warning. the bellefonte police department put out a description of him and his red mini. the hunt for a missing d.a. was
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under way. coming up -- a district attorney in danger? >> we knew what ray had done all his life. i mean, he prosecuted homicides and rape for years. >> reporter: was someone out of prison and out for revenge? when "the case of the missing d.a. continues." [ jason ] it's good to know there are some things you can count on. up here in maine those things are cold weather and bean boots. ♪ ♪ and that's what makes them such a good gift. that and the fact that everybody wants warm feet for christmas. my name is jason valero, and i cut leather for bean boots. and the holidays are made here, right here.
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patty fornicola woke up on saturday april 16, 2005, and felt like she was trapped in a bad dream. ray gricar, her live-in boyfriend and d.a. of pennsylvania's centre county hadn't come home the night before, an he was still missing. >> i knew it wasn't good that ray still hadn't been located. so we had to make a decision about calling his daughter. >> reporter: as patty told "dateline" in 2006 she decided to make that call to laura, then a college student in washington state. >> you know, your gut telling you a lot of things. i just knew that something happened. my gut said it was bad.
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>> reporter: ray's friend he bob duner was bewildered when he heard the news. >> i absolutely did not know what to make of it at all. it was very confusing. d.a.s don't go missing. >> reporter: former investigator darrel zigani still remembers that morning. >> we just handled it as a missing person but a highly significant missing person. >> reporter: darrel has now retired from the bellefonte police force, but back then he was the lead investigator on the case. i assume alarm bells are ringing loudly when the d.a. goes missing. >> yeah. when the d.a. is missing you get a little concerned. we figured there's a much better chance that there's foul play involved than the guy who just doesn't come home because he's been out at the bars all night. >> that's just are because you knew his character? >> well, we knew what ray had done all his life. i mean, he prosecuted homicides and rape for years, then he prosecuted here and then became our d.a. >> reporter: foul play was only one possibility in those first hours after ray went missing, the bellefonte police say they
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considered several others. they ordered an aerial search of a nearby road to look for the bright red mini, thinking ray may have had an accident. they ordered other searches, too. they knew ray may have gone solo somewhere. turns out he had done that before. he once took off to a cleveland indians game. >> he didn't go to this one because we called cleveland and had the stadium police looking for him. >> did you potentially lose time in this investigation because of a default position that he's going to turn up here soon, that there's a reasonable explanation? >> no. we worked on it from the minute we decided we were going after this, this was a missing person. it was constant go, go, go. >> reporter: investigators tracked ray's movements from he vanished and found the last known pictures of him alive on his way to the office the evening before he disappeared. it seemed routine enough, and it took them nowhere. >> one of america's most intrigueing mysteries. >> reporter: on day two, investigators caught a huge
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break. ray's mini was discovered in a parking lot by an antiques mall called the street of shops in the nearby town of lewisburg. ray had visited the antique store there's in the past. now his car was sealed up tight and locked, his cell phone inside. but there was no sign of ray. >> i was glad that it was found, not for the car, but thinking that maybe there would be a clue. >> reporter: there were clues, all right. real puzzlers. >> when they opened up the vehicle, the first initial thing that struck them was a strong odor of tobacco in the car. ray was not a smoker, and he definitely would never let anybody smoke in his car. >> reporter: there was more. inside the car, a speck of ash on the passenger's side. how to explain that in the car of a passionate nonsmoker? >> it would indicate to us that somebody had either been in the car smoking or at least was leaning into the car, possibly talking to ray holding a cigarette.
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>> reporter: investigators found cigarette butts on the ground and sent them off for dna testing. nothing there. there was no sign of a struggle or foul play and not a blood stain in sight. nothing to indicate that a crime had occurred in or near the car. >> had what still baffles me in all of this is basically the lack of a crime scene. >> reporter: yolanda many clairy is a crime scene investigator and nbc news consultant. >> i mean, a crime scene at least helps tell a story. something where you can prove or disprove witness statements, testimony, through your crime scene, through evidence. there areisn't a crime scene. >> but how many times we've seen a crime scene where somebody goes along with somebody who willingly goes with someone who kills them. >> right. there's no crime scene. >> reporter: but if the car gave them little to go on, its
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location in lewisburg 60 miles from gricar's home did. that shipped the investigation to lewisburg at that point. >> we knew he was definitely there,s at least the car had been there. so we immediately went down and started pounding doors and talking to people. then we got confirmation from people in? of the businesses in that area who had actually seen ray. they saw him there for several hours throughout the day. >> reporter: it theythey began building a time line of ray's movements in lewisburg, but it wasn't easy because there was another mini cooper owner in town that day. sean weaver is the chief of the bellefonte police department. he joined the force shortly after ray are disdisappeared, but he says he knows the investigation inside out. >> so there was a lot of sightings of another individual we later found out who he was. he was in a restaurant eating with a woman, but it wasn't ray. it was another guy it that has hey mini cooper. >> reporter: it was a dead end.
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tony gricar is ray's nephew. tony lived in dayton, ohio. as soon as he heard his uncle was missing, he got in his car, collected his brother, and began driving to pennsylvania. >> at the time, we thought, we need to get there as quick as we can to see what kind of assistance we can provide. >> reporter: but when tony and his brother got to lewisburg and saw the scene where are ray's car was found, they were stunned. >> here we go again. that was the exact first thought. >> reporter: the investigation into ray gricar's disappearance was about to take a whole new turn. coming up -- what did the d.a.'s nephew know that police didn't? >> i think my first wo >> i think my rst words to the st veorinat, igy as whe's probably in the river. [ horse neighs ] you're leaving. it is my destiny. ♪ ♪ take this. it is a piece of me. ♪ ♪
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>> reporter: when tony gricar drove into lewisburg, 3 f1 pennsylvania, back in april 2005, he did a double take. tony's uncle ray had disappeared, and the cops had just located ray's abandoned car a bridge over a river, the scene took tony straight back to a bad place in his past. >> to say that it was an eerie parallel would be the understatement of the century. it was the exact same thing. >> reporter: nine years earlier, tony's father, ray's brother, had abandoned his car by a park near a bridge over a river. his body was discovered in the river in dayton, ohio, a few days later. the coroner ruled it a suicide. now this. >> geographically, everything lays out the exact same. you know, with the car parked, a bridge, a river. >> reporter: tony drew the logical conclusion about his uncle ray. your thought was that he
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committed suicide? >> i think my first words to the investigator were, he's probably in the river. >> when your uncle went missing, of course the connections with your father started to be made. was your father depressed? >> yeah. he fought depression for -- by what i could gather -- 20-plus years. >> reporter: and depression can run in families. patty are remembered that ray did seem preoccupied before he vanished. she put that down to work. she did recall that he had been napping a lot. she'd even asked him about it. >> the weekend before he disappeared, i said, i want you to promise me something. sure, what? i said, if you continue to be tired, will you please call your doctor? and he said, you know, work frequently makes me tired. and i came back at him with, in the three years we've lived together, i've never seen you nap so much at lunchtime and
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then after work. >> reporter: but when investigators went through ray's medical records, they found nothing to indicate he had been treated for depression. nothing at all. in fact, ray gricar seemed fit and healthy. but, if the body was in the susquehanna river, investigators were determined to find it. they it brought in helicopters, rescue divers, there was even a cadaver sniffing dog on a boat. although the river could run shallow by that bridge, in the spring of 2005, tony says the water level was high. >> the spring rains as well as melt, so the water was several feet higher. >> reporter: bellefonte police chief sean weaver says conditions were favorable for finding a body. >> at the time, they could see right to the bottom of the river. it was like looking through clear water. it's pretty much the bottom of the river is a flat rock, and
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you can see it very easily from the sky. >> reporter: but no body turned up, and this was the most confounding question of all -- if he had jum are p edped off the bridge like his brother, then where was he? >> the biggest thing you have in a suicide is a body. the body helps tell you what really happened here or, is it even feasible this happened? we also know that sometimes things are are staged to look like a suicide when, in reality, it's a homicide. so a body is something that will give you those clues. and the means by which the suicide occurred. but, in this case, where's the body? >> reporter: the river wasn't telling them. but darrel zagoni, then the lead investigator with bellefonte police, came p up with one answer. so it's possible a body wouldn't be found in that river. >> it's possible, yes. basically what happens, when with you get into the susquehanna, it ultimately ends up in the chesapeake. but if ray would have went into
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the water, there's the possibility that he got down to what they call the fiber dam, down the river a little ways, the water just hits the dam and it grinds around. he could have gotten wedged down underneath and just been chewed to pieces unfortunately. >> reporter: even as the river search was under way, the police continue to canvass the street of shops and the area nearby. it was frustrateing. lewisburg is a college town, home to buck nell university and the weekend ray vanished there were bucknell parents in town. to tony, every other dad looked like his uncle ray. >> honestly, i couldn't walk through, you know, bucknell that weekend without seeing 20 guys that looked like had him, you know. upper middle class, caucasian male wearing a blue eddie bauer fleece. >> reporter: but investigator zagi zagi zagoni wouldn't let it go. >> i probably put in 16, 17-hour days at times, just went home to
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sleep for a while and then came back out and we were going at it again. >> reporter: going at it and getting lucky with a promising new lead. investigators came up with several credible sightings of ray in lewisburg the day he disappeared. one got their attention. ray had been seen with a dark-haired woman in a street of shops. >> we were hoping that maybe this was a fling ray was on, he connected up with another woman and decided to spend the weekend at a hotel or something. >> as a cop you'd seen that before. that happens. >> yeah, we know it happens. hadn't ever seen it with ray or anything. but that's what we started to think. okay, he maybe hooked up with this lady and he just felt bad, didn't want to call patty. >> reporter: a fling. where would that hunch take them? coming up -- police catch a break when two fishermen catch a clue. ray gricar's computer at the bottom of the river. >> they go, what's that? i started looking at it and i said, it looks like a computer.
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>> reporter: what secrets does its hard drive hold? >> we thought, this is going to do it. this is going to tell us what's going on.
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. >> reporter: not long after pennsylvania d.a. ray gricar went missing, investigators had a new lead. >> investigators now say they're looking for a woman. >> reporter: ray had been seen with a dark-haired woman in a shop in lewisburg. at first, investigator darrel zagoni wondered if maybe ray had had a fling. >> did you check motel or hotel errors to see if a couple had stayed in the lewisburg area during that time? >> we sent out troopers, did a hotel by hotel search, talked to desk clerks. car registrations were checked. descriptions of the female he was seen talking to were presented. ray's picture was presented.
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>> reporter: but they came up empty. when they canvassed nearby train or bugs stations to see if anyone matching the couple's description had left town, they came up empty again. so they began asking, how likely was it that ray gricar, standout d.a., a guy who seemed happy in love at last, would run off with another woman? ray's nephew tony didn't buy it. >> he wasn't married so what would the point be of running off with a mystery woman? >> reporter: and perhaps not unexpectedly ray's live-in girlfriend didn't buy it either. >> i know that if ray did not want to be in this relationship with me, he would tell me. i know that. >> reporter: as investigators developed the lead, they, too, came to believe ray was not romancing the mystery woman. it didn't jibe with what they were hearing. and what they were hearing was plenty mysterious. were there multiple witnesses to gricar and this woman? >> there were people at the
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street of shops that saw ray with this lady walking together, talking. they would separate, go into a different little shop, come back out, start to meet up, walk together, sometimes go in a shop together, come back out. then ultimately he didn't see them anymore. it's a very big place. >> reporter: investigators had a slew of questions. for starters, the woman's identity. what was it that she and ray were talking about? and was she there to lure ray into a trap? or was she helping him start a new life? nbc news consultant yolanda maclary says the answers would be pure gold. >> i think she could answer some questions here as to, was it a meet setup that went wrong for ray are, being the foul play, or was this someone who had information for him? and maybe it still went wrong. >> or just someone he met casually or innocently but could at least give us a sense of his state of mind. >> absolutely. they said it didn't seem like
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they were intimate but at least knew each other the way they were kind of talking and strolling. i'm just thinking maybe she could shed a little bit of light as to what happened in those last few moments. >> reporter: investigators worked hard to track the woman down. they weren't successful. and some began wondering how credible the sighting was. as weeks stretched into months, the case of the missing d.a. was stalled. then, in the summer of 2005, the river surprised them all. it gave up a huge clue. >> a cold case may have just gotten a boost with a discovery by two fishermen. >> reporter: the fishermen saw something glinting in the shallow water. turned out it was a lap are top. >> they go, what's that? they started looking at it, thought it looked like a computer. they pulled it out an they got it to us, an we determined that it was ray's laptop through some serial numbers and stuff. >> reporter: it was ray's work laptop, issued by with the county. investigators' excitement quickly turned to frustration
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because the hard drive was missing from it. instead of answering investigate arors' questions, the laptop just gave them more. why did ray have his work laptop with had himim if he was playing hooky? where was the hard drive and why was it missing? they were still mulling that over when the river surprised them again and gave it up. a mother and her child saw it lying in the riverbed. when that hard drive was found, was your first thought, this is going to explain our mystery. >> oh, yes. we thought, this is going to do it. this is going to tell us what's going on. >> reporter: it wasn't to be. forensic computer experts told them they couldn't retrieve any data. the hard drive was just too damaged. when you found out that nothing could be recovered, tell me your reaction. >> very upset. it was like this great big carrot hanging there and you reach for it and you just about have it, and it's gone. there's nothing there. >> reporter: later, the hard drive was analyzed at the same lab that recovered data from the
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hard drive in the space shuttle "columbia" which disintegrated in 2003. it was another dead end. still, the fact that the hard drive had been removed from are the laptop, only added to the mystery. tony recognized that early on. when you heard about the laptop and the hard drive found separately, did that change your thinking? >> when with i was called in by the investigators and said, tony, we found the laptop, i said, great. they said, but there's no hard drive. that gave me pause. anybody is going to look at that and say, wait a minute, that wasn't an accidental thing. >> reporter: are the mystery are of the missing d.a. was now tightly focused on that damaged hard drive. had it been deliberately removed from the laptop and destroyed? was ray's disappearance link ared to something on it? coming up -- >> everyone who's ever looked it at the case has their own theory, how crazy it might be.
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>> reporter: but to some one theory isn't crazy at all. >> i've always felt, had when all the facts started coming out, that the only conclusion left was foul play. ldren' s resea rch hospital. st. jude's research has changed how the world treats brain tumors, leukemia and sickle cell. and no family is turned away because they can't pay. the halls of st. jude are filled with courage and grace. my name's not grace. you must be courage? give thanks for the healthy kids in your life and give to those who are not. go to st. jude.org or shop wherever you see our magnifying glass. i can't wait for you to open this. i can't wait to open it. i think you're really gonna love it. i really think i'm gonna love it to. i can not wait. can't wait to open it. my, my hands are shaking. i'm so excited i'm so excited... my whole body is vibrating with anticipation. open it, please! open it, you should open it, i'll open it. no, no.
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>> reporter: one year after ray gricar vanished without a trace, the man who took his place as district attorney of pennsylvania's centre county held a news conference. >> while leads grow cold, the interest of law enforcement, my interest, just as the public interest, will not grow cold. >> reporter: ray's live-in girlfriend patty made it clear she wasn't giving up either. >> always. i can't make any sense of any of it either. i mean, i've -- one day it might
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be one scenario, one day it might be the other, but i've never given up hope. it helps me go on. >> reporter: but hope and the hard facts didn't seem to go together. the investigators had no body and precious little evidence. and their trophy find, the battered hard drive, wasn't giving anything up. >> you know, it's like everything else. it's been a roller coaster. >> reporter: tony gricar, ray's nephew, had questions about that hard drive. it was recovered separately from a laptop about 100 yards away. tony knew it would take some doing to remove it from the laptop. he believes it was no accident. >> i know computers, especially laptops, and there's no way that just by going in the river that hard drive is coming out on its own. it had a set screw and a slide switch of sorts to release it. >> reporter: but why would ray yank it out? investigators had learned that, before he disappeared, ray was asking around the office about
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how to erase a hard drive and on internet searches at home he was asking how to wreck a hard drive. but ray's friend and fellow d.a. bob buner says there could be a simple explanation for that. >> if i'm ending my career now, frankly, i'm thinking about the same thing. i've got lots of stuff on that hard drive. yeah, i probably would like to get rid of it. i don't have any need for it. >> reporter: and, after all, why would ray drive 60 miles to dump a hard drive in the river when he could dispose of it closer to home? but, if ray didn't remove the hard drive, then someone else apparently did. maybe shgt maybe, investigators speculated, there was something incriminating on it. you'd like to know what is on that hard drive. >> we think there was information on there that would lead us to one of the theories, a reason why somebody would want him dead, why he would jump in in the river, or why he wanted to leave. >> reporter: three theories.
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that's what investigators were left with to explain what happened to ray gricar. does your department lean in any particular direction? >> no, actually we don't. and it's hard because we all have our personal thoughts on the case. everyone who's ever looked at the case has their own theory, personal theory, how crazy it might be. >> reporter: one theory is that ray disappeared because he wanted to. he simply walked away. if so, that would require serious planning. nbc news consultant yolanda ma cl lary. money would have to move, arrangements to be made. you'd have to be a sharp cookie to hide that kind of plotting, wouldn't you? >> whatever happened here is well planned out. >> by somebody. >> by somebody. whether it's ray or somebody else. >> reporter: but financial investigators from the fbi could find no evidence that ray was planning to move money. there was nothing to indicate that ray was planning to walk out of his very successful life.
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>> here's even a bigger thing. what is the motive behind that? why would you just walk away from are your life? anybody? he's closes to his daughter. he had a girlfriend with no issues with. what is this all based on? >> here was a case. he was planning retirement, planning travel after retirement. does that make that even less likely that somebody would set all of this in motion and then just disappear? >> i find it less likely, yes. and nobody sees any signs of this. it doesn't make sense. it doesn't make sense in his life. >> reporter: tony gricar agrees. >> there are's no path that the investigators have gone down where they can say, oh, yeah, this is why he walked away. >> reporter: good ray gricar didn't walk away and assume a new identity, did he commit suicide like had his brother? this is a man who loved his daughter, loved his girlfriend. does it make sense that he would take his own life and not leave some sort of explanation, a message to them? >> i would say no. it makes no sense to me. >> reporter: and, without a body tlshgs'ses no way to be sure.
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that leaves one last theory -- murder. investigator darrel zagoni says that as a prosecutor gricar had put some dangerous people behind bars. >> who knows who got put in jail 20 years ago who is still holding a grudge against ray. >> reporter: someone who maybe wanted the straight arrow d.a. out of the way, someone who may have lured ray into a trap. most things we think of when we hear of a prosecutor going missing under strange circumstances, that this could be linked to something he was working on, somebody who wanted payback. >> sure. to me, that would be the most plausible thing. >> reporter: tony hasn't conclusively settled on the foul play theory, but d.a. bob buner has. >> i've always felt, maybe not initially, several months later when all the facts started coming out that the only conclusion left was foul play, and that's an awful thing to imagine. it's the one thing i didn't want
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to think of. >> reporter: but, if it was foul p play, there were no credible suspects and so over time the ray gricar case went cold. this past summer, gricar's daughter laura arepetitioned the court to have her father declared legally dead. that's where things stood. until a few short weeks ago when the case of the missing d.a. came roaring back to life. coming up -- could there possibly be a connection between ray gricar's disappearance and his investigation more than a decade ago of the first known sex abuse allegation against coach jerry sandusky sandusky. >> for those who say ray gricar missed the opportunity to put sandusky away, you say what? and coming up next friday on "date line ", america now, the town that jobs forgot. >> we are the poor people. you know, how did we get to this?
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>> one town, three families, no jobs. >> things got bad quick. >> out of work. out of luck. out of time. >> we prepared for a rainy day. but instead we faced a hurricane. >> this is the story of how those families fought back. how bad did you want that job? >> i wanted it really bad. >> what they lost. >> thinking back on that, don't make me cry. >> and what they found. >> a id o dot lf grf you want to save money on car insurance? no problem. you want to save money on rv insurance? no problem. you want to save money on motorcycle insurance? no problem.
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at penn state university, an awful story. >> reporter: it broke big. >> former penn state football coach indicted on child sex abuse charges. >> reporter: the story of the initial 40 child abuse charges against jerry sandusky. he has denyied them. >> former penn state assistant coach jerry sandusky speaks out. >> reporter: a grand jury spent more than two years investigating the accusations of eight alleged victims, and there it was in the official summary of the grand jury's findings, the name ray gricar. it turns out ray was the first prosecutor to investigate an allegation of child sex abuse against jerry sandusky, way back in 1998. that was news to many, including michael ma der ra, the man who became centre county's d.a. after ray disappeared. >> i found out about gricar's involvement along with the rest are of the world when we read the grand jury presentment. >> reporter: t popping up in the media, why
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didn't ray gricar prosecute jerry sandusky 13 years ago? >> how in the world could the local d.a. have declined to prosecute this case? >> reporter: to understand that, you have to go back to 1998, that's when a mother contacted the penn state university police to say her 11-year-old son had told her he had been bear-hugged by sandusky naked in the shower. it was an explosive allegation. ray gricar, the local d.a., became involved. we don't have his file. we don't know exactly what he did. but d.a. bob buner is pretty sure he know whaz ray did first. >> and when you get a case of child abuse, you just put on the game face. that's the one. that's the one that really gets to us. >> reporter: ray would have almost certainly met the alleged victim to assess his credibility. >> if he met with that victim -- and i believe he did -- he was the one who would have made sort of a gut credibility decision.
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>> but when you have a prominent member of the community, well-known member of community, then you look at the credibility of your alleged victim, does that become tough, then? >> oh, absolutely. >> reporter: if it ever got to a courtroom, the case would likely come down to the testimony of one 11-year-old boy against a hometown hero. that's where the sting or something close to it came in. we don't know all the details, only this, that the mother confronted sandusky on two occasions in may 1998 while detectives listened in. had you ever known ray to do that kind of a sting or run that kind of operation? >> i don't know -- i think that would be typical of what ray would do, as i said, he was the kind of guy when police would come to him, he'd always ask the next question. well, have you tried this? have you tried that? >> reporter: the grand jury report says sandusky told the mother, i was wrong, i wish i could get forgiveness. i wish i were dead. last month nbc's bob costas
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asked sandusky about that confrontation. >> in 1998 a mother confronts you about taking a shower with her son and inappropriately touching him. two detectives eavesdrop on a conversation with you and you admit that maybe your private parts touched her son. what happened there? >> well, i can't exactly recall what was said there in terms of what i did say was that, if he felt that way, then i was wrong. >> reporter: it seemed sandusky was confessing to something wrong, but that's not how bob buner sees it. >> people have characterized sandusky's statements as being a confession. we call it under the law an admission. but it has to be an admission to a crime. hugging in and of itself, even a child under the age of 12, is not necessarily a crime, unless
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you can show sexual gratification. that's the key. >> reporter: was that statement at least grounds for further investigation? have you tried to get into ray gricar's head and to understand what his thinking may have been when this allegation was presented to his office? >> it's easy for me with 20/20 hindsight to say, well, if i had that information i would have said, this needs to be looked into further. but that must also follow with, i don't know what information he had. >> reporter: ray gricar decided not to prosecute jerry sandusky. we don't know his reasons. it is easy now to second-guess gricar's decision, especially since jerry sandusky allegedly went on to commit repeated assaults after 1998. for those who say ray gricar missed the opportunity to put sandusky away, you say what? >> i say they don't know the law, they don't know ray gricar. >> reporter: there were online posts and tweets speculating about a link between the two,
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but could there actually be a connection? >> for anybody, anybody, to suggest otherwise is i think incredibly naive. >> reporter: dr. cyril wecht is a well-known -- of pittsburgh, 100 miles west of the penn state. he has not worked on the gricar case, but he has followed it for years. wecht made news with his comments after the sandusky story broke. he believes there must have been rumors san dusk itty was continuing to abuse young boys after 1998, and he says gricar must have heard them. >> i guarantee you, after a district attorney has been in office for some years, there is not any kind of criminal activity that takes place in that county that he is not aware of. >> reporter: wecht speculates that gricar blamed himself for those alleged abuses and either walked away or committed suicide.
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or, wecht says, maybe gricar knew too much. >> someone says, mr. gricar, we've kept it quiet all this time, and without you around we'll keep it quiet longer. and that's the end of mr. gricar. >> reporter: but gricar's friend ares and colleagues rule out any connection between the missing d.a. and thedusky case. >> i am in no way aware of any reason why there would be a link. as i've said before when we were talking about the person ray gricar is, i cannot imagine, based upon what i know about him, that he would allow something or someone to influence a decision that he thought was the right decision to make. >> reporter: bob buner agrees and adds this -- >> i see absolutely no connection between ray gricar's disappearance in 2005 and anything connected with jerry sandusky or the whirlwind of tinges that are going on over at penn state right now. >> but you can see how people may make that leap in their
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imaginations because this is a true mystery. >> it is a true mystery and an aanything ma. why would anything connected with the sandusky matter take out, eliminate a district attorney, who declined to prosecute a case and who was leaving office in eight months? >> declined to prosecute years earlier. >> yes. it seemed to me, if you're going to take somebody out in a criminal case, you go after the witnesses, you go after the people who could really get on the witness stand and do you in. >> reporter: whether or not what happened to ray gricar has anything to do with jerry san dusk itty, his disappearance remains an open case to this day. the bellefonte police department still follows leads. they occasionally get reports of ray gricar sightings. he's supposedly been spotted in illinois, ohio, michigan, maryland, and texas. >> we've had some pretty crazy sighting, but we look into them. we've had sightings in new york city from a very credible person. and the vitd did look like
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mr. gricar, but it wasn't him. >> reporter: maybe one day they'll be able to unlock the secrets of that damaged hard drive. do you hold any hope that's at some point technology will allow you to recover something? >> exactly. i'm hoping maybe in a couple of years. >> reporter: for now, the mystery of ray gricar's disappearance endures. and so does the wait for answers. do you still hold out hope that you're going to get a definitive answer? >> always. we're always going to have that it question that's never going away. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll see you again next friday at 10:00/9:00 central. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night. -- the blow to california's dependent that is setting everything back to square one. how to get that